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What makes digital workers go back to the office after the pandemic

Offices around the world are trying to find out how to work now when the pandemic is no longer considered a global health emergency but anyway has made millions mixing working from home and at the office. 40% of digital workers say “facetime” (i.e., meeting face to face), whether that be with colleagues, managers or senior leaders, is their No. 1 motivator to return to the office.

This is a result from a survey by market research firm Gartner of 4,861 full-time employees that use digital technology for work purposes, at organizations with 100 or more digital workers in the UK, US, India and China shows.

45% said other reasons world be their No 1 motivation to return to the office mentioning office equipment (ergonomic desks, monitors, printers, and Wi-Fi), ability to focus, workplace belonging, in-person IT support, and office amenities like parking, fitness centers, daycare, and lunch, the survey shows.

Only 10% mentioned expectations from their manager or concern they would be at a career disadvantage as their No. 1 motivator.

A controversial issue is meeting with some staffers at the office while others work from home. 

The survey shows 47% prefer to spend the highest percentage of time in virtual meetings, with audio and/or video, and the lowest percentage of time in hybrid meetings where some attendees participate in an in-person group setting and others join via webcam or phone. 

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Respondents ranked hybrid meetings as second-least productive (17%), with audio-only meetings least, and in-person meetings as the most productive (46%).

“Digital workplace leaders can facilitate productivity, and improve user experience, during hybrid meetings by ensuring all participants can see and hear everyone clearly; interact with in-meeting content sharing and conversation; join the meeting with only one button or link; and seamlessly move across operating systems and devices”, the survey says.

Many organizations have implemented employee productivity monitoring checking what workers are doing when working from home.

If the monitoring is done to help managers see which employees are most productive and why, 96% of employees are more willing to accept monitoring if it leads to assistance that benefits them:

  • One-third of digital workers would accept monitoring in exchange for support in finding information or data to do their job.
  • 30% of digital workers would accept monitoring in exchange for proactive outreach from support.
  • 28% of digital workers would accept monitoring in exchange for streamlining information and notifications as well as getting advice on performance improvement.

“Progressive organizations are pursuing radical transparency around when data is being collected, what data is collected, how long it’s kept, who has access to it, and for what purpose it is being collected,” says Tori Paulman, senior director analyst at Gartner. 

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“This includes giving employees an opportunity to opt-in to information and data gathering.”

77% of digital workers want to participate in creating their hybrid work model, while 14% prefer to have their hybrid work environment mandated.

“As the workplace continues to evolve so does the employee experience”, says Gartner director Caitlin Duffy

“Increasingly, HR will need to partner with digital workplace leaders to ensure they are crafting the desired digital employee experience.”

The survey found that 47% of digital workers struggle to find information or data needed to effectively perform their jobs.

“Employees struggle to stay afloat as information and applications flood their digital workplace. Although digital workers are putting in effort to try to efficiently manage this content to try reduce duplication and/or improve knowledge sharing and retention, finding the information needed to do their jobs can often be a challenge,” says Paulman. 

“Digital workplace leaders need to create a process for their employees that enables them to agree on applications they use to accomplish work.”

According to the survey, the average number of applications a desk worker now uses is 11, compared to six applications in 2019. 40% of digital workers use more than the average number of applications and 5% of workers use 26 or more applications at work.

66% in the survey agreed that better business outcomes could be achieved if IT provided universally accepted and supported applications and devices to get work done. 

“When a digital workplace applications strategy attempts to solve every challenge with a new application, the result is that digital workers struggle to find information, make the wrong decisions due to lack of awareness, get irrelevant notifications and miss important updates amid the noise”, Gartner says. 

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